Friday 15 December 2017

Hannah England defends Mo Farah against 'witch-hunt' over missed drug tests

Mo Farah
Mo Farah

Mo Farah's coach has rubbished speculation of a relationship breakdown between himself and the double Olympic champion.

Alberto Salazar, along with Farah's training partner Galen Rupp, is under the microscope over doping allegations made by the BBC's Panorama programme.

Both men have denied the allegations, while Farah has not been accused of doing anything wrong.

Farah, who himself has been placed under scrutiny after it was revealed by the Daily Mail he missed two drugs tests in the build-up to London 2012, travelled to his Portland training base to seek answers from Salazar last week.

On Wednesday he was back on the other side of the Atlantic, training in France, which led to rumours that Farah was trying to distance himself from his coach.

However, speaking to the Oregonian newspaper, Salazar insisted Farah was still under his tutelage ahead of the Briton returning to the track at the Monaco Diamond League meeting next month.

"Mo is on a different training cycle, as he always is at this time of year," he said. "So I send him to Europe to get accustomed to the time zone. This is how we've always done it.

"This winter Barry (Fudge, a UK Athletics official who reports Farah's progress to Salazar) administered my workouts to Mo in Ethiopia for six weeks, and Mo broke the world two-mile record."

Farah, meanwhile, has been backed by British team-mate and fellow distance runner Hannah England, who has called the stories surrounding the 32-year-old a "witch-hunt".

The Daily Mail reported Farah, who won gold in the 5,000 and 10,000 metres at London 2012, missed a first test early in 2010 with another the following year. Under the 'three strikes' system, a third missed appointment would have counted as a doping offence carrying a maximum four-year ban.

England, who won silver at the 2011 world championships in Daegu, said in the Independent: "I feel it's turning into a witch-hunt against Mo.

"There's been a lot of very serious allegations made in recent days and that's very newsworthy but it's like people are finding some way to bring down Mo with it.

"I think it's irresponsible that this has become such a big story without a proper explanation. It's not what people are making it seem like.

"There's just a lot of speculation going around. People are ruining Mo's reputation and ruining the sport."

UK Anti-Doping's (UKAD) chief executive Nicole Sapstead has admitted it is "not common" for an athlete to have two missed tests.

Last year there were 266 British athletes on the testing register, each of whom would have a minimum of three tests a year, and there were a total of 37 missed tests.

Between 2010 and 2014 there were 224 missed tests with the highest number in 2011 - the year before the London Olympics - with 66 missed tests but 99 more athletes in the testing pool compared to last year.

Video evidence submitted to UKAD by Farah's agent Ricky Simms aiming to show the runner had not heard the doorbell may also have helped avert any possible charge for deliberately trying to evade testers.

Under the 'whereabouts' system, athletes have to register where they will be for a specific hour every day so that testers can be sure of their location. If they are not where they say they will be three times in the space of a year then it is judged as a doping offence.

Sapstead would not discuss individual cases or reveal how many athletes were on two strikes but said: "It is not common for athletes to have two missed tests."

UKAD's legal director Graham Arthur said any evidence of a deliberate attempt to avoid testers would lead to an immediate doping charge.

Arthur said: "If someone has deliberately not opened their door and deliberately hidden from the testers then we would take action against them for evasion, which carries up to a four-year ban.

"If they have put themselves in a place where they are not able to hear the doping control people arrive or ring the doorbell and we are satisfied they are just being negligent and not wilful, then it counts as a missed test."

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